Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Deceptive Humanist Christmas Song

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

The late Greg Lake, most notably of the progressive rock bands Emerson, Lake and Palmer and King Crimson, had a "Christmas" song that wasn't. The lyrics were written by Peter Sinfield. There are conflicting accounts and misconceptions about "I Believe in Father Christmas", that it is a Christmas song, it was never intended to be such ("...about a loss of innocence and childhood belief"), Vietnam war protest, it's an atheist song, it's not atheist but rather "humanist" (as if there's a difference), and so on. I'll allow that it has excellent music and thought-provoking lyrics, but I haven't heard all of the versions.

Sinfield wrote lyrics for EMP and King Crimson, and Lake wrote many lyrics himself, including all of those on ELP's Tarkus album. One of these was "The Only Way (Hymn)", a mocking anti-theistic and anti-Christian song, including the lyrics, "Don't need the word now that you've heard. Don't be afraid, man is man-made". You shouldn't wonder at my suspicion that "I Believe in Father Christmas" is actually an atheistic song, despite the claims of the writers.


"I Believe in Father Christmas" is played as a Christmas song, but has a decidedly anti-Christian meaning. Key lyrics and examined.
Image credit: Pixabay / PublicDomainPictures
Let's take a look at some of the lyrics, which are found in their entirety here.
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin's birth
Ah, the ubiquitous "they" of so many songs. I tried writing some poems that I intended to turn into songs (fortunately for humanity, those lyrics are gone) and used "they". Someone asked, "Who are 'they'?" He was right. Sounds like a shadowy boogie man told in cowboy campfire tales. If "they" are the weather forecasters that promised snow, don't be surprised. Those people get a lot of things wrong even three days after a forecast. Some people think those same climate calculations can spell disaster for us 100 years from now, or less, as in Algore's famous failed predictions. But I digress. 

Lyricist Sinfield had a Christmas disappointment as a child. It happens. Did that destroy his weak or even nonexistent faith, such as Lewis Wolpert's rejection of God for not being a cosmic wish-granting genie? In a way, none of this is all that surprising, given the increased secularism of Britain. I'm just cognating on those things.
They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
'till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in Father Christmas [Ever notice that the title is in the present tense, I believe, but the lyrics are past tense, I believed? -CBB]
And I looked to the sky with excited eyes
'till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise
Oh no! It's the dreaded they again! How was it "sold"? (Maybe a traveling salesman with a bowler hat, umbrella, and a necktie like they wore in Britain back then.) Sinfield called "the Israelite" (Jesus) a "fairy story", and we're supposed to believe that this is not an atheistic song? Not hardly! Lake must have been in agreement about the "fairy story" because he sang those lyrics. Disbelief in Father Christmas? That's where I have a problem with Christians who tell their children about that character (even though he was based on a real person) and magical gift-giving, because they can easily say, "I was lied to about Santa, Jesus must be false as well". Some of us told our kids that Santa is make believe and illustrates the spirit of giving, but that Jesus is real.

The soaring final lines are impressive:
Hallelujah noel, be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas we get we deserve
Pretty dreadful stuff. Greg Lake wants to join in the Christmas celebration for the good will and nice feelings, but why? We all know the reason people are singing hymns and exchanging gifts, the reason stores plan on making big money at the end of the year, and it's certainly not because of Saturnalia or Winter Solstice celebrants! No, I'm not forgetting Hanukkah, but it's not exactly prominent and a money-maker for retail stores. If atheists want to celebrate Christmas and leave Christ out, it's a fa├žade and they're living a lie. Christmas is about Christ, and they know it.

Do we get the Christmas we deserve? That line is nonsensical. Actually, we don't deserve Christmas at all! We are sinners (Rom. 3:23, 3:10-12) and deserve death (Rom. 6:23). God loves us (John 3:16, Rom. 5:8). Christmas is about Jesus, God the Son, our Creator, taking on human form for our redemption (John 1:1-3, Col. 1:16, Phil. 2:6-8). Those who do not belong to Jesus are enemies of God (Rom. 5:10) and blinded by their father down below (2 Cor. 4:4, John 8:44), but can repent and become children of the living God by faith (Eph. 2:8-9, Gal. 4:4-6, John 1:12, 2 Cor. 5:17). We've treated God like garbage, but he wants to redeem us and adopt us as his children. We can have Christmas, but we most certainly do not deserve it.

Greg Lake has met his Maker. He has since learned that man is not man-made (Gen. 1:27, Mark 10:6, Col. 1:16, John 1:1-3). He also knows his eternal destiny, and I hope he repented before the end. Where will you spend eternity?

I'm going to celebrate Christmas — something I do not deserve.



Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Day I Disagreed with Albert Mohler

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

If I made a personal rule not to listen to or read material from people who are smarter than me, I wouldn't have much to do. Instead, I saddle up and ride the harder trail, trying to learn some things from people I can't hold a candle to in the area of intelligence. When disagreeing with someone, a good exercise is to be able to show why you are doing so, even if it only benefits yourself. Sometimes, other people may respect that you gave reasons for your contrary view, because it shows that you're thinking.

Disagreeing with Dr. Albert Mohler on the issue of cremation. I found out that others in my family have preferred this.
Image credit: Morguefile / Kenn W. Kiser
This has to do with a topic that is sometimes controversial among Christians. In the October 26, 2016 episode of The Briefing podcast, Dr. Albert Mohler was discussing the issue of cremation. He was agreeing with the Roman Catholic Church that cremation is not acceptable for professing Christians. One of the reasons is that pagans do it, cremation is not in the Bible, and also, Christians traditionally have not done it. This strikes me as guilt by association and the genetic fallacy on the first point. To take that concept further, there are many things we "cannot" do because pagans, atheists, cultists, Communists, or whatever also do them. Not hardly! On the second point, that Christians have traditionally eschewed cremation, well, that doesn't impress me.

I disremember when, but Pastor Alistair Begg expressed strong dislike for cremation, and described the unpleasantness of the cremation funeral ceremony and of the process itself. I agree with him on that part, and think people are better off without that aspect. Giving the container to the family after the fact is fine, and they can choose whether or not to use it in the memorial service.

Interestingly, after I had decided that this was what I wanted for myself as a cost consideration for those left behind, I learned that both of my parents had selected cremation as well. My oldest brother was also cremated, as was my father-in-law (we have his cremains in the apartment right now pending further plans). There was no cremation ceremony.

This leads to some odd humor. My oldest brother died December 21, 2008, and my father died the following February. They lived in Michigan, and I was unable to travel from New York for my brother's service. When I arrived at my other brother's home for my father's service, they put me up in a spare bedroom. I asked if anyone was using the room, and my brother said, "No...oh!" He went into the closet and lifted up a lacquered box, saying, "This is our brother". The ground was frozen (February, remember), so the burial couldn't happen until the spring thaw.

After my father's service the next day, we brought things out of the funeral home, and put the container with his remains in the back of my brother's car. The container remained in the car overnight, and the next day, my brother said, "Do you want to bring Dad in?" I really think my father would have laughed at the comments and situation.

Christians have a blessed hope (Titus 2:11, 1 Peter 1:3). My oldest brother had severe Down Syndrome, my mother was taken by a malignant glioma, and my father had many issues at the end, including dementia and Parkinson's. We're going to have a joyous reunion, all of the physical and mental impairments will be gone. I'm ready to join them with Jesus. What about you? There's good news if you want it.

Back to the topic, I had reached my conclusion about cremation before I had know other family members had decided on this approach for themselves. Respectfully, Dr. Mohler, I disagree with you. I'm sure it'll happen again sometime.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Make Writing Interesting

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Way back yonder, in days of old when nights were cold, I wanted to be a science fiction writer, and took courses on writing. These included college nonfiction writing, and a required course on speechifying (even in 1980, I was speaking out against falsehoods in evolution). One simple thing that stuck with me was to write as if your audience was about 13 years old. (I think one of the creationist sites I read has a general style guide, when not doing hardcore science, to write as if the readers were precocious teenagers.) This seemed like a good approach when attempting to inform people. Then I'd go to my next class and wade through a textbook that was "written at a college sophomore level". Seemed like a contradiction to me.

Unfortunately, the classes on writing do not work in this medium. Online articles have different criteria because people have not only demands on their time, but often have short attention spans. Part of the problem with short attention spans is social media. You'll see what I mean if you study on that.

Many things that I have read, and still read, are desert-sand dry and tedious. Others are cute and funny, but become distracting, and it's easy to miss the point of what the author is trying to communicate. One of the watchwords for my life has been balance, and that applies here, too. My regular readers have probably figured out that I don't want to be boring, but still get important points across. Adding "color" to articles is a good thing. I'll put in the cowboy lingo to break things up and keep my online persona going, but have to taper back so I don't defeat my own purpose and get distracting. At times, I have to use wording that is appropriate for the subject, assuming that those who are reading the post or article are familiar with the necessary expensive words. 

Sometimes, I get put off by sesquipedalian loquaciousness, where I get the feeling that the writer is not so much interested in communicating as in showing off his or her extensive vocabulary. At the other extreme is when someone writes so simplistically, it's rather insulting, and you may feel that the writer is talking down to you.

Much of the time, writing style depends on the audience. Three creation science examples: the Journal of Creation is not going to have cute terminology (see "What life is"), nor is "Answers Research Journal" (see "Do Varves, Tree-Rings, and Radiocarbon Measurements Prove an Old Earth?"), and don't expect to see it in the Creation Research Society Quarterly Journal (see "The Extraterrestrial Search for the Origin of Homochirality"). Authors may put some personality in their articles, but the material is primarily written for scientists, or those with strong science backgrounds. I certainly don't understand much of that material. Major creation science organizations publish material on the layman's level, fortunately, and even include some clever wording that adds color.

There are different approaches to writing material, depending on the audiences. Attempting to reach a balance between simplistic and complicated is important.
Image credit: Morguefile / pippalou
Rent-a-Friend-2000, "a gentleman and a scholar at a very reasonable hourly rate" (Bryan Melugin) writes over at "A Bit of Orange", and I first became of his work because of his videos. I'm partway through a series on "Defining Evolution", and I'm quite taken with both the style and content. There is a storyline of sorts: four friends meet on Thursday nights after work for nachos and conversation. (One small quibble of mine, Mr. Melugin named a seafaring character "Bluebeard", but the Bluebeard legend is about a non-nautical serial killer that may or may not have been real.) The premise is developed through the four-way conversation of the characters. His writing includes humor, side notes, incidental activities, character attitudes, and more. I believe the creation-evolution discussion is effectively and entertainingly presented.

The RaF2K material reminded me of something at the other extreme of using dialogue and a storyline to communicate a concept. It was a novel I read in the 1980s, Genesis by W.A. Harbison. That bad boy was over 600 pages, and I found it to have very little action. Instead, it used dialogue to establish the premise that UFOs are not extraterrestrial at all, but the results of man-made secret projects. There was so much of this dialogue, I felt cheated. (Also, there was also an excessively detailed sex scene in the book that did not advance the storyline as far as I can recollect. If sex between that man and woman was important to the story, there was no need for the prurient details.) Melugin had his communicative dialogue in balance, Harbison did not.

So what's the point? Different audiences react to different writing styles. Many of us prefer to use a lighter approach, especially when trying to have others understand ideas that may be new to them. In my case, I hope readers will follow the links to the featured articles and explore on those sites for more in-depth material if they want it. In the meantime, I'll write in a manner that I hope people can understand, keeping a balance between "talking down" and using excessively complicated language. Oh, and I have to keep from letting my efforts at adding "color" distract the readers.